First guests are here in what is advertised as ‘guinea pig’ week. This is a discounted week at the beginning of the season when we are still getting to know the chalet and menu and punters are also risking the possibility of little snow. Fortunately the latter is not as much of a problem as last year due to a decent dump prior to our arrival although nothing since.
Our guests this week include Tim and Sara plus 9 year old Cat who are helping to keep us right as well as, presumably, checking up on our competence. It is their reputation and business at stake after all. They are joined by a barrister friend of theirs who had wanted to be a professional chef, no pressure there then! Also there are a couple of snowboarders who are instructors at the outdoor activity centre near Skipton. The unknown quantities are a couple who have skied and travelled around ski resorts usually in their camper van and following their 17 year old son who is in the British Freestyle ski team. They are joined by a boarding man who has only recently enjoyed a holiday in Tignes, which he rates higher than here. We’ll have to see if the same is applied to the chalet and its staff! We also have a mother and daughter combo so it all makes for interesting dinner table conversation particularly when topics are either controversial such as private versus public sector work-related stress or intimate, covering toilet cleaning habits, gleaning such phrases ‘poodo’ (as in Cludo!)
We have our early morning routine down to fine art from last year. I jump in the shower whilst Roger shaves, both of which are completed nearly simultaneously. As I’m dressed first I leave to go to the chalet via the boulangerie for the fresh bread. Being diligent we gave ourselves plenty of time on the first morning which resulted in me waiting 15 minutes for the bakers to open. The route would not have been a problem if not for the darkness. All the street lights from the previous evening were switched off and the first vestiges of dawn had yet to appear. Fortunately I had my torch for when I have to go off road down the hill but didn’t have it in my hand on exiting the building and nearly walked straight into a parked car.
Having collected my flutes, slightly thicker than a baguette, I set off down a rather steep unlit path, across a driveway and further down another path. However on the first morning I met a dog walker who’s charge took great exception to my presence and must have woken the neighbourhood with his continual objection and owner’s attempt to shut him up. Being slightly more efficient now I can leave a little later and not had the misfortune to coincide with them again. Above the chalet I divert off the path and scramble down a bank of rough ground which sports only two rose bushes, one of which I managed to scrape across my face as I directed the beam of my torch at the ground. I arrived at the chalet moments after Roger, who goes straight there, with blood dripping down my visage from 2 scratches. Not the best look for first breakfast for our guests but at least I didn’t exhibit any canine teeth marks as well!
Once breakfast is completed, the cake for afternoon tea made, general tidying and cleaning completed we do as much of the other jobs as we can fit in before catching the 10.20 bus back up the hill, via the bin store and bottle bank. This gives us a deadline, albeit rather tight, and is a huge improvement on last year when we were chuffed to bits to get out before noon. This allows enough time to ski, if we so chose or go to sleep as I’ve only had to do once so far. We return around 5pm in the glow of the setting sun casting pinky orange hues across the snow-capped peak opposite. Roger has found the optimum route down, cutting off the long meander of the first bend, through other properties car parks and grassy banks etc. It remains to be seen how we will manage these slightly precarious routes once covered in snow. We serve dinner at 7pm and have been finished by 8.30! We didn’t start serving the meal until 8pm last year and were lucky to be out for 10.
Our final task is to ascend the bankings, often carrying tupperware dishes of liquidy food for our own meal as it still a reasonable time to eat. However the slopes are so steep that hands and feet are required but with a torch in one and dish in the other this can prove quite a challenge. There is a possibility that, when the full bus service starts in the next few weeks, we may even be able to catch motorised transport back which will be wonderful. We are only fit to drop when we reach the apartment; the third and steepest bank up to our block circumvents the need to walk a further 300 yds on up the hill only to double back along the front of the adjacent and our own building. The final assault is the 3 floors up to our flat. We were going out the other night and rather than complete those final stairs we stood in the foyer and ate our meal with our fingers from the container which we then hid in he ski locker to negate us having to climb up to the flat twice!
The combination of the altitude, the skiing and all this climbing should make us very fit fairly quickly, however, in the meantime we are shattered and our legs ache even though we are not ‘technically’ working as hard. A mere 6 hours a day for 5 days and about 12 hours on changeover day (of which we have 2 this week! another story) a doddle compared to the 80 hours plus we were putting in at this point last year. Anyway, all good so far.